When Life Gives You Demons

It has been six months since my last post.   Much has happened for me, but nothing has changed as far as the Diocese of Scranton is concerned.  Everything remains a risk calculation for the boys on Wyoming Avenue.  We are no closer to the truth, no closer to the Bishop taking responsibility for his actions, not anywhere near an honest act of contrition. And now Bishop Bambera is under consideration for appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, another corrupt bastion of Catholicism.  Yes, sports fans, Bambi is perhaps in line for a red zucchetto.

The bishop is calculating the victory lap he thinks he will take when the accountants come back with the final tally from the Individual Survivors Compensation Program (ISCP).  It will be a ledger of payments, pennies on the dollar, intended to make survivors go away.  There is no actual admission of wrongdoing, no real penance.  It is a business transaction.

One of the downsides of having this blog is the email from “ordinary Catholics” who are pissed at me for having the audacity to call out the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for the coverup of decades, perhaps centuries, of sex crimes committed by priests against children.  The most recent, received last week, comes from a man who initially sent me an email insisting that I call him.  He included a phone number with a southeastern Pennsylvania area code.  (Note to potential email correspondents to this blog, saying you “would like to speak to me,” and providing a phone number is not going to get me dialing my phone.)  No context, no explanation, just an expectation that I will drop what I am doing and dial the number.  On the outside chance that the email could be from a survivor, I responded.  My experience also shows that other survivors who are unsure how to start “the conversation” will make the same request, provide a number and ask me to contact them or request that I provide my digits.  The sole reason I respond to any of these emails is the possibility that the originator is a fellow survivor.

After more than a dozen years working on this blog, it is easy to spot a militant “protectors of the faith” in a follow on email.  Often they are trying to ambush me into a lecture.  Sometimes, if I politely decline, it gets more aggressive with accusations that I hate the church, I am making up stories, or I am tarnishing the reputations of “godly” men.  You get the picture. 

Last week I saw a spike in visits to the blog.  Because I have not posted since last June, I was surprised to get an email from WordPress telling me that my stats were booming.  The next day brought an email request for my phone number.  I thought it odd and stated so in my reply when I asked for the reason he wanted to speak to me and for an introduction.

His reply began with a quote from my blog:

The Catholic Church is a huge multinational business, run for a purpose.  It has a goal to collect money, to perpetuate itself and to avoid scandal. They want to attract the “faithful” to fill the seats for the Sunday morning magic show in order to keep the collection plate filled.  This will allow the monsignors, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope to continue living in opulent excess.  It has long ago stopped being about god, charity, faith and truth.”

My first thought was, “here we go!”

The second paragraph was: (my comments in bold italics)

“I am an ordinary Catholic living near Allentown, PA. (So?) I have been in Scranton several times. (as if this lends geographic credibility to what is to follow)  I read your history on the blog “Off My Knees” about the abuse you suffered by a Catholic priest online (thanks for the page views?!). You stated that you no longer consider yourself a Catholic (I don’t), and you don’t believe in God in the traditional Catholic of Christian construct (Yup, I said that too)(And then we get to it…) I want to talk to you about why you don’t want to belong to the Church, your attacks and hatred of the Church,  and why I believe the Church is being (sic) unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like you.”

I am curious, why is my desire to have no relationship with the Catholic Church any of your business, Mr. “Ordinary Catholic living near Allentown?”  My criticism is directed at the hierarchy of the church for reasons that are well documented.    My hatred of the church?  You lept to that conclusion all on your own.  Show me where I ever said I hated the church.  Hate is a powerful emotion, but it not the opposite of love.  The opposite of both love and hate is indifference.  I am indifferent to any institution that has a culture where prominent leaders rape children, their higher-ups cover up the rapes and encourage followers to enable those crimes through collections, tithing, and donations.  My question to you, Mr. Ordinary Catholic, is why aren’t you?

I  don’t care (there is that pesky indifference again) if you believe the church is being unfairly treated by the mass media and abuse survivors like me.  Imagine how unfairly treated the victims of sexual crimes committed by priests and covered up by the hierarchy of the church feel.

On the outside chance that this was a Festivusairing of grievances” from Whitehall, PA. I would suggest that you now move on to the “feats of strength” activities.

Merry Christmas and an Excellent Festivus to us all!

 

Filling out the ISCP application

20180924_073807
On a car in the parking lot at work, in Virginia.

I have been struggling with this for weeks.  I am trying to make sense of this play by the Diocese of Scranton.  They have set a window for survivors to apply for the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP) that terminates in July for those who have not previously reported their abuse or in September for those of us that have informed the diocese of what happened  and are known to the people who work at the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.

This fund is a bet on the part of the Diocese.  They are hoping that victims/survivors will take the fund offerings now and forego the chance to depose diocesan officials if window legislation somehow passed in Pennsylvania as it has done in several states over the years.  Most notable among the states who recently voted to allow victims to take their perps and the institutions who protected those predators are New York and New Jersey, neighbors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The bishops are clinging to a failed strategy of minimizing the issue, vilifying the victims/survivors through their proxies and claiming that the only people who will suffer are the old, infirmed and very young who “so desperately need the assistance of a benevolent church”.  And just to put a punctuation on that concept, the Diocese of Scranton is selling off properties that include assisted care facilities and coyly saying that funds from these sales will go to pay for the ISCP.  The sleight of hand and misdirection are not lost on survivors.

 

Bishop selling assets
Bishop Bambera begins the fire sale of diocesan properties.

 

While many have accused me of trying to make a “quick buck” over the years, I am still looking for the truth to come out about the extent of the cover-up and the number of diocesan officials who had a hand in actively marginalizing victims and their families while protecting child rapists.  Given that I have been writing this blog for over ten years, I may need to rethink my “quick buck” strategy.

In the meantime, I am looking over the form for the ISCP.  There are seven pages of required information and questions that will determine the eligibility of a survivor to participate in the ISCP for the Diocese of Scranton.   You are allowed to provide additional pages as necessary to complete answers. The form asks for details on all the instances of sexual assaults, rapes, molestation and other forms of abuse.   You will note here that this trauma is being revisited on the survivors, while the officials of the diocese just sit back hoping to get out from under all of this for the absolute minimum investment before window legislation can be enacted into law.

This is the essay test from hell.   Can you imagine the dread that survivors are experiencing looking at this task? The Diocese, under the terms of the ISCP, will be able to have copies of all of the applications from survivors. My greatest fear is that they will take pleasure in what they will read.   As I try to answer the questions,  I can’t help but feel like I am writing inappropriate erotica for the fetishists at the Chancery.

Excuse me, I think I need to be sick.

Diocese releases more information on the ISCP

If you are a survivor in the Diocese of Scranton, you will need to look at the Diocese website for the Independent Survivor’s Compensation Program.  The link is at the end of the news release and is not part of the main Diocesan site.   The Bishop also released a video. There is not a lot of substance there, just a rehash of points in the letter mailed to survivors by the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) (I should check that envelope to see if that was a bulk mailing).  It is replete with politically correct attempts at “empathy” for victims within the Diocese that should appease the most ardent of the Bishop’s apologists supporters.

I strongly recommend that you get legal advice from someone not associated with the Diocese of Scranton.  If you have not come forward with a report of your abuse yet, you should go to the police, district attorney for your jurisdiction or the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and make your statement to civil authorities.

Some vital information on who may file a claim from the FAQ Sheet for the program:

The persons eligible to participate in this Program are: a) individuals who allege they were sexually abused as a minor by clergy (whether incardinated within the Diocese of Scranton or a member of a religious order serving within the Diocese of Scranton), lay teachers or employees associated with the Diocese of Scranton, or b) the Legal Representative (as defined below) of those Claimants. The following additional criteria apply:
• For new allegations first reported after November 8, 2018, the Claimant must first report the allegation of abuse in writing (with a copy submitted to the Administrators) to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office in order to participate in this Program. A finding of criminal liability by the District Attorney is not required for participating in this Program. All new allegations of abusereceived through this Program will also be reported to the appropriate District Attorney by the Diocese as required by law and Diocesan policy.
• The Claimant must not have previously entered into a settlement agreement resolving the same claim of clergy sexual abuse against the Diocese and/or a member of clergy.
• The Claimant must not have previously litigated his/her claims to resolution against the Diocese or any related entities. However, a Claimant whose claims were dismissed or resolved solely on the grounds that they were barred by the Pennsylvania statute of limitations and no other basis, remains eligible to participate in the Program.
From the Diocese FAQ Sheet

The letter I received from the VAC last week indicated that more details would be forthcoming from the administrators of the ISCP.  As of this writing, I have not received that package yet.   I will provide updates when it does arrive.

Everyone needs to assess their situation and make decisions that are right for themselves and their families.  Only you can decide how you are going to proceed.

I am providing links to the Claim Form, Protocol, and Fact sheets in a .pdf format.  These documents are from the package received from the administrators managing this process.

iscp claim form

iscp protocol

iscp fact sheet

 

 

 

 

Awaiting Details of the Bishop’s Fund and End of the Year Reading

There are only a few days left until the Diocese of Scranton releases the information on the Bishop’s Victims Compensation Fund.  I am confident that Bishop Bambera will over-promise and under-deliver to victims and their families. If you plan to make a claim against the Diocese of Scranton, watch their news release page for information.  I expect the lies and blame deflection will flow from Bill Genello’s office as soon as the details of the “Independent Survivors Compensation Program” ooze out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue.

Look for requirements that will disqualify as many people with credible accusations as possible.  If you were raped/molested/harmed by a priest in a religious order teaching in a Diocesan school, you might be out of luck.  The Bishop will probably flick that booger towards the religious order and ignore that the crimes were committed within his curia.  As in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, they will probably offer you the services of an attorney to help you navigate the rules of the fund.  Please be aware, that the attorney being paid by the Diocese will not have your best interests at heart.  If the Diocese is paying the bills, the lawyer is working for the Bishop and not for you.  I strongly recommend that you get your own legal representation, working for your interests and yours alone.

The best bet in Pennsylvania is to enact legislation that opens a civil litigation window, sweeps aside the need for confidentiality agreements, and forces institutions like the Catholic Church to comply with laws protecting children and vulnerable adults.  All victims should have the right to bring a claim in front of a judge.  The format of the compensation funds is stacked to favor the Dioceses.

I have been reading some articles linked from sites like Catholics4Change.org or sent in from readers of this blog (thanks Barb!).  I am going to offer you some links to spike your outrage or just leave you shaking your head at the myopic idiocy of Church leaders.

Abuse Talking Points Interrupt God’s Word 

Can victim funds help heal wounds of Pa. church sex abuse scandal?

NY archdiocese issued suitability letter for priest under abuse investigation

Catholic abuse victims face new obstacle | Editorial

Business as usual in the Catholic Church

Ticking time bombs in the church

Cardinal Wuerl, despite stepping down due to abuse scandal, presides over grand Basilica Christmas Mass

The Cardinals and the Bishops are ending 2018 full of deceit.  I hold out little hope for change when the clock strikes midnight tonight, and we charge headlong into 2019.  Over the last ten years writing on this blog, I have always been in awe of the Church Hierarchy’s ability to be unfeeling, uncaring, unchristian buffoons.  I don’t think they will disappoint in their stupidity in the new year.

BISHOP BAMBERA SHOULD RESIGN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT!

 

Bishop Timlin is in Baltimore! So much for keeping a low/no profile.

There has been a confirmed (and press covered) sighting in Baltimore of Bishop James Timlin, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Scranton.  Despite the current Bishop’s “forbidding” (wink, wink) of Timlin from representing the Diocese, James Timlin is at the General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore Maryland.

According to an article in the Times Leader   (sent to me this morning by a reader of this blog), Bishop Timlin was asked not to attend the USCCB event by the current prelate of the Diocese of Scranton, Joseph Bambera.  It seems that Bishop Timlin played the “you’re are not the boss of me” card and got on down the road to Baltimore.

I have a question.  Who paid for this trip?  I am willing to bet lunch (at a restaurant of my choosing) that some staffer made the travel arrangements for both Bishops (perhaps three if Bishop Martino is also along for the party), to include luxury accommodations in the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.  I will also be willing to bet lunch that the Diocese is funding the pilgrimage for both of our intrepid diocesans.

Timlin in the open
Bishop Timlin (bottom rider on the escalator) in Baltimore on Monday

I am amazed at the lack of understanding on the part of the staff at the Diocese on how the optics of this is playing out.   To me, this is proof of Bishop Timlin’s hubris and, perhaps, defiance.  At best, it shows that Bishop Bambera has little control over the chancery in his own curia.  At worst it is proof that he is only playing the part of a prelate who is concerned about his diocese and victims of sexual assault.  I would be checking the travel expense accounts to find the answer.   If the current Bishop’s people are authorizing and paying for Timlin’s travel, we have the measure of Bambera’s commitment and leadership.  Perhaps he is just waiting for all of this to blow over.  Bold stand, your Excellency! (sarcasm intended)

I am sure Timlin is only attending the seminar on Rebels, Robbers, and Rogues in the Church or meeting with the secret society of contemporary Holy Roman Emperors.   I will assume he does not have to go all the way to Baltimore for a day of exhilarating escalator rides.

To all you members of parishes within the Diocese of Scranton, I hope you approve of your offerings being used in this manner.  The Diocese is complaining about a drop in donations but they can put two bishops and, I will assume, some Diocesan staffers, at the hotel in the posh Inner Harbor at an assembly that, by order of the Vatican, cannot vote on any proposals for a way forward.  So, what exactly are they doing down there on your nickel?

It is not a long ride from my Virginia home to Baltimore. I have some time off coming to me.  It would be fun to go up to the Inner Harbor and check out the Aquarium.  Perhaps I can go to the Marriott where the USCCB is meeting and see who is floundering on the escalator for myself.  I would love to meet the man and ask him a few questions.  I bet security is tight around this gathering of Roman Collar Criminals.   I wonder how many pictures of survivors are on file with hotel security.  As if we were the real danger posed by this gathering.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

trojan_horse

It has been a while since I read the Aeneid in which Virgil warned “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” I will paraphrase in the traditional English fashion.  “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”   Today, the Trojan Horse was rolled out of the Chancery on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton.

Just days after the mid-term elections failed to turn the Pennsylvania Legislature from red to blue, the Roman Collar Crime Syndicate in Pennsylvania announced the formation of a  “Compensation Program for Survivors of Sexual Abuse.”

A press release from the Bishop made the announcement that was heavy on diocesan empathy (sarcasm intended) and light on details.  The text is available on the Diocese Website.   I will put the wording of the release at the bottom of this post.

Survivors will need to weigh their options in the coming months on what they want to do.   I see this as nothing more than the Dioceses in Pennsylvania trying to settle claims of horrible abuse for pennies on the dollar.  I strongly recommend that if you are going to consider going this way that you get competent legal advice.

The Devil is in the details. There are no details here yet.  The Devil must still be advising the Bishop on how to proceed.  I will wait until this flushes out a little more.  This doesn’t look like transparency and justice. It seems like an attempt to buy silence on the cheap.

The press release from Bill Genello reads as follows:

SCRANTON, PA (November 8, 2018) – The Diocese of Scranton announced today the creation of an Independent Survivors Compensation Program for those who have suffered sexual abuse by clergy, religious or lay employees. Participation in the Program by survivors is entirely voluntary.

The Program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, two leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. They will have absolute autonomy in determining compensation for survivors, and the Diocese of Scranton will abide by their decisions. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros are currently managing a number of high-profile compensation programs nationwide, including similar programs started by five Catholic Dioceses in New York. Those programs collectively have provided over $200 million in compensation to more than 1,000 survivors. They have received positive feedback from those who participated.

An Independent Oversight Committee will oversee the implementation and administration of the Program. The Diocese will have no authority over this committee. Compensation decisions are final and cannot be appealed or overturned by the Diocese or the Independent Oversight Committee.

“Providing compensation to these survivors is the right thing to do,” said the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton. “Several weeks ago, Pennsylvania’s Bishops announced support of such a program, which was recently discussed but not enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Diocese of Scranton is therefore moving forward and is offering this Program for survivors.”

Parish and school assets, as well as contributions and bequests from parishioners and donations to the Diocesan Annual Appeal, will not be used to fund the Program. Rather, the Diocese will use available reserves and will sell assets and borrow money as needed. While the Program will require significant resources, the Diocese will strive to maintain its core mission to serve the local community.

The Diocese continues to refine the Program so that it better serves survivors. Further details concerning the Program will be made available in the near future, including a website for survivors to obtain information and claim forms. The Program is anticipated to launch in January 2019.

Lack of confidence in Bishop Bambera’s ability to lead the Diocese of Scranton

 

Bambera
Bishop Joseph Bambera

I am catching up on my reading on the Diocese of Scranton in the wake of the Grand Jury Report and actions in the State House in Harrisburg.  I keep going back to an article from the Associated Press by Michael Rubinkam on September 5th that discussed Bishop Bambera’s involvement in a civil case in 2007, a year before I before I went public to expose Robert Gibson.  The case involved Bishop Bambera because he was Vicar of Priests when the priest involved, who went by the pseudonym “Father Ned”, was returned to a parish in the Diocese after going through a treatment program after being credibly accused of inappropriate activity with a minor.  “Father Ned” was, in fact, Father Gibson, the man who raped me when I was 13 years of age.

Father Robert J. Gibson
“Father Ned”, Robert J. Gibson

 

The first paragraph sent chills through me.

Even as Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera apologized to his flock last month for the “misguided and inappropriate decisions of church leaders,” he is reckoning with his own role — revealed in federal court a decade ago — in the system that protected pedophile priests

Bishop Bambera has apologized to “his flock”.  I read “flock” to be the dwindling number of parishioners at the Cathedral in Scranton.  He is also pretty adept at apologizing to banks of microphones in front of the press.  What he has not publicly done is apologize to actual survivors of abuse in person.  A room full of the victims of “Father Ned” and many other priests in the Diocese over the years should be the audience he stands before to ask forgiveness.  He should personally go to the churches and schools where these predators selected and groomed their victims. Sending a video does not cut it.   An article in the Scranton Times from 16 September reported that the Bishop had a mass of atonement on  September 15, 2018 (a Saturday, I bet that was attended by tens of people) where he apologized. That article said:

During the Mass, led by Bambera, the bishop devoted the entirety of his nearly 15 minute homily to addressing the abuse scandal that has roiled the Roman Catholic Church. Bambera said the abuse has been one of the darkest moments in the diocese’s history and arguably one of the darkest in the history of the church.

“The church let you down,” Bambera said. “And you deserved better.”

Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment. He said his heart breaks for the faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished by the sins of others and encouraged those currently studying to become priests.

“You are not part of the problem,” Bambera said. “You are part of the solution.”

I love the sentence “Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment.”  Victims may have been there.  I don’t think victims were invited.  I did not get an invitation. Bill Genello did not send me a note, a Facebook message, an email… Victims “may” have been there.  But they probably were not.  It is more likely that they were dealing with their own lives on a Saturday while theater of the absurd was being directed by the diocese.  Bishop Bambera does not seem to have the spine required to own up to his past actions in front of the people directly impacted by those acts.

Bishop Bambera, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.  Your words are hollow and will always be so.  Your heart breaks for faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished?   REALLY?!  Doesn’t your heart break for the children involved?  Oops, your public relations boys dropped the ball on that statement.

A paragraph in the September 5th AP article articulates clearly that the Bishop is part of the problem.  The worn out defense of  “I was following the orders of Bishop Timlin” does not acquit the current Bishop.

Bambera’s participation in the Gibson case highlights the fact that some of today’s bishops, while they were rising through the ranks, helped their superiors shield priests accused of abuse from law enforcement and allowed them to continue in ministry — or at least had knowledge of the cover-up by senior church officials and didn’t blow the whistle.

Falling back on my 23 years of experience as a Naval officer, I look at this Bishop, and his own public utterances (to anyone but actual victims) and I see someone who does not have my confidence in his ability to command, to lead the Diocese of Scranton.  His presence in the Diocese is divisive.   His focus since the release of the Grand Jury Report was directed more towards the Annual Fund Drive (how did that work out, your Excellency?) than any substantial effort to bring about transparency and honesty.  He is almost defiant in his manner and public comments to protect his church at the expense of the survivors/victims.  His actions and words compound the harm.  He is part of the malignancy on Wyoming Avenue in the Chancery.

As one of the survivors of Robert Gibson (Father Ned), I call on Bishop Bambera to resign, immediately.